Last night 80+ guests in Houston logged into Zoom for a virtually guided wine tasting with Fabio Sireci and Melissa Muller, legacy owners and grape growers at the historic Feudo Montoni farm in the central Sicilian mountains.
It was one of the most thrilling events in the weekly virtual wine dinner series hosted by my client Roma restaurant. That was thanks in no small part to Fabio’s wonderfully aphoristic way of talking about his wines and land. The brio of the evening was also owed tale’s from chef and cookery book author Melissa’s incredible journey: first falling in love with Fabio’s wines at her own restaurants in New York and ultimately marrying him in what is as close to a fairytale as you can get (a double rainbow appeared the day they first met on the grounds of the estate, no joke).
But beyond these two lovely, thoughtful people and the verve with which they talk about their wines and farm, the wines were what really stole the show. There is a clarity and vibrance in Fabio’s winemaking that few of his peers can even aspire to.
The Montoni farm is one of Sicily’s most unique properties. It lies inland in the mountains — not on the coast or towering above the Mediterranean on the slopes of a volcano. The vast estate is encircled by a ring formed by its seemingly endless wheat fields. Because of his vineyards’ isolation from the rest of the island, they are protected from contamination like chemical residue from commercial farms or biotype corruption (we spoke at length last night about his distinctive Nero d’Avola clone, developed through centuries of selection massale).
The high-altitude Grillo, a grape Fabio’s family has grown for generations, was deeply mineral in character, with notes of white flowers and underripe stone fruit.
Tracie and I were both floored by the rosé from Nerello, another grape that Fabio’s family has grown for generations, long before the variety became trendy. It was super fresh but also lean and razor-focused in its red and berry fruits. Delicious. And I loved Fabio’s take on how Nerello is a grape that doesn’t know whether it’s red or white (much more discussion needed on this; really interesting).
The showstopper was the cement-vinified Nero d’Avola. Fabio’s biotype makes for wines slightly lighter in color and more lithe in the glass than most wines from this variety. But it was the wine’s freshness and “transparency” of fruit (rich but not overly ripe red fruits) that really wowed Tracie and me. What an incredible wine! And that was just his entry-tier Nero d’Avola!
“Fabio says that tonight the experience was unique,” wrote Melissa after our call. “And the sensation is that the world is small and it felt as if we were all in the same house chatting and tasting wine together. The miracle of the wine is the creation of smiles and friendships and union in our marvelous world.”
It was a truly enchanting evening. And it reminded me, all over again, why I love Italian wine and why I love what I do for a living.
If you’ve never tasted these wines, search them out. Grab your favorite Verga novella and enjoy them slowly, patiently, and quietly. Savor every last drop.